Róisín Murphy seemed forever dedicated to contradicting herself with her latest artistic steps. Her last two studio albums, ‘Hairless Toys‘ Y ‘Take Her Up to Monto‘, due to their experimental component they were appreciated by a few, and their series of dance singles with Maurice Faulton from 2018, among which songs such as ‘Plaything’ stood out, were far from being “for all audiences”. The lack of media attention wore to Róisín, that year, to little less than starring in a «breakdown» on the day of his birthday. However, the singer’s most recent singles, such as ‘Incapable’, have shown a much more classic and digestible sound for anyone.
It is the dilemma that has haunted Roísín all her life: she wants to dedicate herself to making more “arty” pop records like ‘ruby blue‘, but people want to sweat on the dance floor with another’overpowered‘. And on the other hand, the artist’s fans insist that Róisín’s 2007 album is the exception to her career… as if Moloko hadn’t existed, much less succeeded with a disco remix of ‘Sing it Back’. But one thing is clear: Róisín has never stopped being a disco diva -I refer to great songs like ‘Jealousy’- and in her latest singles she gives herself completely to this facet.
The most recent, ‘Murphy’s Law‘, is today our «Song of the Day» (Saturday, April 18). His post-disco sound is perfectly identifiable in the 80’s and artists like Michael Jackson, Evelyn «Champagne» King, Patrice Rushen or Imagination, whose ‘Just an Illusion’ seems like a starting point for his elegant production; and its melody seems drawn from the time. The song, like the immediately preceding ones, is produced by Richard Barratt, who already worked with Róisín on ‘Overpowered’ and is a star in his own right: the musician from Sheffield is known for being a pioneer of British house and techno, with his band Sweet Exorcist helped create the so-called “bleep techno” sound present on their hit ‘Testone‘ released by Warp, and in the 1990s, under the pseudonym Parrot, he was part of the breakbeat band All Seeing I, who in 1998 hit the UK charts with their electronic version of Sonny & Cher’s ‘Beat Goes On’ ( top 11), the same one that Britney Spears would cover later on her first album… and that this even gets to present on TV.
With all the debates about whether or not Róisín should go back to making a danceable album like ‘Overpowered’, it’s funny to discover that ‘Murphy’s Law’ actually belongs to the original sessions of that work. It is as if the Irish had thought: «do you want ‘Overpowered’? Well, take some discards ». But in this case the idea has worked: there’s no point in rescuing old songs if they’re not going to be improved, and although it took Róisín 13 years to publish ‘Murphy’s Law’, the song is worth it. In words to JENESAISPOP, Barratt himself thinks that “time has done her good” although he does not seem to remember that time with much fondness: “It was a strange time,” he says. “In our little community of musicians and artists in Sheffield we were used to being independent and very involved in everything we did, and suddenly Murphy had all this machinery behind her working around her, with which a song could pass for a bunch of different studios with a bunch of people pitching in. It’s a lot different than just messing around in your room with a synth, a drum machine and no money.”
«Before, the DJs who considered themselves «underground» the productions with voices seemed unworthy of their value, but now things have changed for the better»
The sound of ‘Murphy’s Law’ is also very different from that of ‘Overpowered’: if that album sounded modern for its time, ‘Murphy’s Law’ sounds retro and anachronistic, as it even reaches 8 minutes in length in its original version, at the way of the «DJ mix» of those times (it only needs to be published on vinyl inside a white envelope without text). But appearing or not in playlists is not something that worries Barratt: “I think a song should be as long as it asks for it, last a minute or 15. I’m not subscribed to any playlist so I have no idea how write a song specifically to get me on a “nice times in the loo” playlist or whatever.” Paradoxically, Barratt believes that the market is much more receptive today than a decade ago to this type of production, and gives the example of another Róisín single produced by him, ‘Simulation’, released in 2012 and which was over 11 minutes long: « When we made ‘Simulation’ 10 years ago we had a hard time finding a label to release it. Back then many labels were reluctant to release dance songs with vocal performers. To DJs who considered themselves “underground” this type of production seemed impure and unworthy of their value. There was a time when there were hardly any lyrics in dance music. Luckily things seem to have changed for the better and our most recent releases have been getting a very good reception from DJs. Just in time for the clubs to have had to close…”
The most curious part of ‘Murphy’s Law’ is in fact the vocal: in the song, Róisín’s voice sounds distorted, like a few tones below normal. This has obviously been a conscious decision on the part of its authors. Barratt tells: «In the period that we made ‘Jealousy’, Róisín came across the demo of ‘Murphy’s Law’, which is from 2007 and was forgotten, and decided to re-record the vocals. We did 3 or 4 mixes before she decided she didn’t like the tone of the song, so we put it back in the drawer. A couple of years later I was the one who ran into her, and remembering that Róisín didn’t like her tone, I started messing around with him in the studio. Turning the song down 9 BPM seemed to give his voice a nice maturity that fit the lyrics. In her,
(Róisín) sounds like she’s tired of life. And although the key is lower than she usually uses, the song is still within her range ». As for the instrumental part, Barratt is less hesitant when it comes to pointing to specific influences: “Everyone and everything good inspires us,” she explains. “We both like classic pop songwriting as well as more avant-garde musical forms. The things we usually collaborate on don’t usually follow a predetermined pattern. There may be vaguely an area that we’ve been trying to get into, but after that the song takes on a life of its own.”
“We always have a song or two in various states of completion, so it’s very possible that all of them will appear together on an album in the very near future.”
Written at the time mentioned, in a studio installed inside a room, along with two other composers, Michael Ward and Dean Honer, ‘Murphy’s Law’ comes out in the same session as ‘Cry Baby’, one of the great pickles of ‘Overpowered ‘. It’s the song of endless cowbells, and that instrument is used in the new remixes of ‘Murphy’s Law’ that have just been released. As an electronics producer, Barratt, who signs these reviews under his alias Crooked Man, is fond of remixes, which he sees as a form of disguise: “When I’m working on a song it’s hard not to start imagining what it would sound like in different packaging. . It’s like dressing up. What would happen if I wore these pants? Or maybe this t-shirt, and a hat… what if I didn’t wear any pants at all? One thing suggests another, and then that thing leads to another thing and before you know it you have four or five different versions of a song and people end up totally confused. Fortunately, Róisín likes to have his time to dress up, so he understands and doesn’t yell at me for doing it. Well, not too much.”
Does so much single single mean that Róisín is working on a new album? The producer answers ambiguously but leaves the door wide open. “We always have a song or two in various states of completion, so it’s very possible that all of them will appear together on an album in the very near future.” At the moment, the artist is working on another old song, ‘Demon Lover’, which promises to be another memorable single in her recent career. ‘Murphy’s Law’ has shown that it doesn’t matter how old a song is if the end result is that good.
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Róisín Murphy’s ‘Murphy’s Law’ Is A Lost Classic… From The ‘Overpowered’ Sessions – jenesaispop.com
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